Our Presbyterian Heritage

celiticcrossTo whom do Presbyterians trace their origins?

Presbyterian churches trace their origins back to John Calvin who, in the sixteenth century, thought about God and God’s relationship to humanity
in ways that came to be known as Reformed theology.
Today there are Presbyterian and Reformed churches all around the globe.

With whom are Presbyterians related in their beliefs?

We confess that we believe in One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The beliefs we confess unite Presbyterians with the one, universal Church of Jesus Christ.
Our most important beliefs are ones we share with other Christians — and especially with those who, like us, look to the Reformation
as a renewal of the Gospel.

What can I read to learn about Presbyterian beliefs?

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a Book of Confessions, a collection of statements of belief that have been adopted over the years in various places,
under various circumstances.
These statements reflect our understanding of God and what God expects of us at different times in history.
Presbyterians believe the confessions are reliable expositions of Scripture. Nevertheless, we understand that each individual
must stand before God alone in understanding what the principles of our faith mean in his or her life.

Are members and officers of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) asked to assent to all its beliefs? 

Members of the church are asked, when they become members, simply to confess their believe in God, their reliance on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,
and their commitment to lead a life worthy of this.
Officers of the church, when they are ordained, agree to be guided in their leadership by the “essential tenets of the Reformed faith.”

What are particularly strong Presbyterian and Reformed beliefs?

Presbyterian and Reformed Christians teach that:

  • God is the Creator of all that is and that God has authority and power over all creation.
  • God calls us to be good stewards who make proper use of the gifts of God’s creation.
  • Our knowledge of  God and God’s purpose for humanity comes from the Bible,
    particularly what is revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Our salvation through Jesus is God’s generous gift to us and not the result of our own accomplishments.
  • God has chosen us for service. God calls us to work for justice, peace, and reconciliation in society,
    in obedience to the Word of God.
  • All members of the church have a responsibility to share with the whole world the Good News
    we have received through Jesus Christ.

How do Presbyterians organize their church?

Presbyterian Christians place importance upon orderly church life. We always govern ourselves through bodies that have a combination
of professionally-trained ministers and lay people, both men and women.

How are Presbyterian beliefs and history represented in the seal of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)?

The seal is on the right of this web site’s banner. It can be viewed in many ways. Its most foundational symbol is a cross inspired by a Celtic cross,
a cross with a circle around it that is especially associated with Scots and Irish.
These peoples were among the important ancestors of American Presbyterians.
There is also an open book on a stand, symbolic of the Bible, and a dove that reminds us of the Holy Spirit
through whose guidance we read Scripture.
The flames remind us of both Moses at the burning bush and the disciples in the upper room at Pentecost.
Many Presbyterian Churches around the world have used the burning bush in their logos.
It speaks to us about God’s presence in life and the vitality this gives to the church.

Interestingly, the West End Presbyterian Church logo also is based upon a cross with a circle around it, the circle being composed of people
who are part of the fellowship of the Church.

If you would like to read more, here are some resources. To read, click on the title.
(When you have finished reading, click on the back arrow of your toolbar to return to this site.)

  • A Brief Statement of Faith: a recent confession adopted by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
    written after two Presbyterian Churches in the United States came together to form the Presbyterian
    Church (U.S.A.) in 1983
  • A recent Study Catechism used for educational purposes
  • What Presbyterians Believe, index of articles online
  • The Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Book of Order (which
    details the Presbyterian system of orderly governance): the two parts of the PC(USA) constitution
  • The Great Ends of the Church from the Book of Order